I am sure all of you have heard of the 80/20 rule or the Pareto principle? The 80/20 rule says that very often things could be achieved much easier, faster and with less trouble by focusing on the top 80%. It states that often 80% of the effects are caused by 20% of the causes. So don’t go for perfection, just go for what would be good enough to get 80% of the benefit. In many cases that could also be translated to what or how much would be good enough if you don’t wanted to make it perfect.
“Yeah, I’ve heard that so often” – Sure, but why haven’t you used it more?
There are 2 primary reasons why you have failed to use the Pareto principle in the past:
- You have not separated your true goal and motives from your false or superficial goal and motives.
If you are shooting at the wrong target, you will never get what you really want. So make it clear to yourself what you REALLY want.
- You have not clearly defined what your 80% would look like.
What would good enough look like? Again, if your target isn’t clear, you have a hard time getting there. That is equally important for the 100% as well as for the 80% solution.
I recently had someone ask me how to make sure he could focus on things and whether he needed to clear out any distraction upfront? I simply said to him, that cleaning out every distraction (=100%) would take very often way too much time and effort. He should remove the most distracting things (=80%) and start with that. That proved to be a good answer because removing the most distracting things is achievable in a very short time frame (=20% of time investment). Had he tried to remove every distraction upfront (=100% time investment) I am pretty sure, he would have given up before even starting.
Step 1: What Are You Really After?
Like in the above mentioned example, you need to know, what you really (REALLY) want from your goal, because there is a superficial cause for your goal as well as a true, but hidden cause.
In this example wanting to clear out every distraction would be a superficial goal. The real (hidden goal) would be to be able to focus. So removing distractions was only a means to the real goal of being able to focus.
Beware that most of your goals aren’t about what you really want. You don’t want money, influence, power, fame. What you really want behind all this is something that would make you feel good. Don’t fall in the trap of going after something with all your power that’s not what you intend to get.
Ask yourself instead what your real motives are.
Step 2: How Can Your Real Motives Be Satisfied?
Once you’ve found out what your real motives are, you can then brainstorm how you can satisfy them. You should really consider giving this some thoughts, because very often your real goal could be achieved with far less effort and struggle than you might think. How can this be achieved differently than through your primary approach?
Step 3: How Good Is Good Enough?
I am sure you’ll know what 100% of the solution would look like. You also know that this could involve lots of work and trouble. However do you also know what 80% would look like?
Define what 80% or good enough would be like. This step is so much easier, once you’ve really determined what your after.
Again referring to the example above, knowing that your real intent is to be able to focus, you only need to ask how much you need to do (=remove distractions, etc.) to get to 80%, so you could achieve your real goal and are not blocked by waisting 100% of your efforts on subsidiary targets.